Manchester United saw their nine-game unbeaten run in all competitions come to an end on Sunday afternoon, with Erik ten Hag’s side slipping to a dismal 3-1 defeat away to a resurgent Aston Villa, in what was Unai Emery’s first game in charge of the Midlands outfit.
The visitors had endured the worst possible start to proceedings after shipping two goals inside the opening 11 minutes, with former Everton man Lucas Digne notably firing in a stunning free-kick to leave United with a mountain to climb to get back into the game.
That challenge was made somewhat easier as Luke Shaw’s effort deflected in somewhat fortuitously off Jacob Ramsey on the stroke of half-time, only for the latter man to restore his side’s two-goal lead with a thumping finish just minutes after the restart.
There was to be no late fightback as the away side limped to their first defeat at Villa Park since 1995, with the Red Devils likely to be hoping to exact revenge when the two sides meet again in the Carabao Cup at Old Trafford on Thursday evening.
In what was a grim encounter for Ten Hag’s men on the day, one notable passenger was that of struggling asset, Donny van de Beek, with the former Ajax man having failed to warrant the faith of his manager.
The 25-year-old had almost become something of a forgotten figure at the Theatre of Dreams having endured a miserable last two years at the club since his £35m arrival back in the summer of 2020, having made just 21 starts in all competitions since then.
Having only recently returned from injury, the Netherlands international – who spent the second half of last season on loan at Goodison Park – was handed a surprise inclusion in the side for Thursday’s clash with Real Sociedad, although made just 19 touches before being hooked after only 58 minutes.
It was a similar story last time out as the 19-cap dud retained his place in the side as a result of the suspension of Bruno Fernandes, although again failed to make his mark having made just 18 touches in his 66-minute outing, while registering only one key pass in that time.
The £120k-per-week man was also something of a liability defensively having failed to record a single ground duel and won just one of his two aerial duels, while recording just a 6.3 match rating, as per SofaScore, with pundit Clinton Morrison suggesting that the playmaker simply “isn’t up to the pace“.
Journalist Liam Canning was also critical of the £17.4m-rated man’s “invisible” display in the centre of the park, while Manchester Evening News’ Samuel Luckhurst stated that the midfielder had been simply ‘anonymous‘, while awarding him just a 3/10 match rating.
With chances having been few and far between in his United career to date, Van de Beek simply had to make the most of his rare opportunities this week, although has only served to show why he remained on the periphery under both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick.
If even Ten Hag – whom the 6-foot menace worked under in Amsterdam – can’t get a tune out of the player, then it is hard to see the once-promising Dutchman having any future at Old Trafford moving forward.